Stephen F. Austin
For the 3-14 matchup, this spread seems a bit small (sitting around -7), considering West Virginia can pile on points when they get out to a lead. Stephen F. Austin is getting more respect probably partly to their record as they finished undefeated in Conference play and 27-5 overall.
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The LUmberjacks have experience in the Tournament, though, and that could play a role as well. They fell to Utah 57-50 last year and the year before that took down VCU in their first Game then lost to UCLA 77-60. Maybe that experience against VCU’s press two years ago will help against West Virginia this year, but this is a much different SFA team. They lost by 42 points at Baylor in their season opener and struggled against better teams in non-Conference play even losing to Tulane.
There’s not much to dislike about West Virginia right now, despite losing to Kansas last Game. Before that, the Mountaineers had won six-straight Games with wins over Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma. In non-Conference play, they absolutely dismantled all of their mid-major competition, and that’s not including a 25-point win at Virginia Tech.
Both of these teams can Scoreand both can press. West Virginia is just better at doing it. The Mountaineers lead the nation in turnovers forced per Game, while the LUmberjacks actually come in right behind them. Of course, playing in the Southland and Big 12 are two different things. While it was the season opener against Baylor, Stephen F. Austin forced just eight turnovers in that loss.
The competition in the Southland is minimal to say the least, as SFA won its final 11 Games by double digits, often in the 20-point range. As for WVU, it’s hard to ignore some of the road wins they had this year, most notably at Baylor and Iowa State.
Another advantage the Mountaineers will have is on the boards. Devin Williams is coming off a monster 31-point, 10-rebound Game in the loss to Kansas and SFA doesn’t really have anyone to matchup with the uber-athletic forward. Everything the LUmberjacks do revolves around Thomas Walkup, who led the team with 17.5 points, 6.8 boards, 4.5 assists and 2.1 steals per Game. He’s a great player, but in tougher non-Conference Games, struggled to reach those numbers. He didn’t even have a rebound in the loss to Baylor.
It’ll be interesting to see what the matchups look like because Walkup and Williams may end up going head-to-head even though Williams has a large size advantage. If not, someone like Jonathan Holton off the bench would give Walkup trouble as well.
Stephen F. Austin doesn’t have much size and that extends to its starting backcOurt of Demetrious Floyd and Trey Pinkney, who both come in under 6-feet. The LUmberjacks have good numbers on the season, but they take a dive against better competition. One number that stands out is that SFA is still only 221st in the nation in rebounding.
Devin Williams is set to have a field day for the Mountaineers as SFA doesn’t really have anyone to match up with him. And then there are still the WVU guards who make everything run for this team with Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles starting and the more offensively explosive Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip off the bench.
Thomas Walkup is a great player, but he’s going to have trouble with the athleticism and size of West Virginia. If Walkup has a bad Game, or even a mediocre one, it’s hard to see the LUmberjacks keeping this Game in single digits. Once the Mountaineers smell blood, it usually only gets worse.
Our Pick – West Virginia -7